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The One Back Shot Gun Triple Option
Submitted By: Mike Bramblett
Head Football Coach
Forsyth Country Day School
Winston Salem, NC
At Forsyth Country Day School , our offense is based upon a spread passing game that is designed to open up our running game.  Our program began with its first ever season in 2000.  In 2002, we finished with a record of 8-2, in our third season. Much of the success we have experienced has come from our ability to spread defenses out and attack schemes designed to stop our base runs.  We do this by using the quarterback reading the backside DE and attacking his actions with option mechanics.  You may say, “Everyone that runs shot gun is doing that, so what?” We feel we are a little different!
Our desired method of attack is to stay with our one back and four wide formation (2 x 2).  You see many coaches speak and write about the triple out of the gun by using 2 backs in the backfield.  That is a great concept!  We feel that by staying in a 2 x 2 set, we put more doubt in the mind of the outside linebackers.  We believe we gain an advantage by making them think more about our offensive possibilities.  Are we running zone away from the OLB’er, QB counter to the OLB’er, bootleg pass, or play action pass? We feel the threat really slows down their actions.  With four receivers, we have a player to threaten the area for which the OLB’er would be responsible. In our base formation, we see a limited number of defensive fronts.  We get a 4-4 cover 3 or 4-3 cover 2, which leaves only 5 in the box. We do see some man coverage. We really like our chances to run the ball against the 4-4 and 4-3. We will also throw a lot of our quick game against the 4-4 cov. 3.
We apply these option concepts to several of our base runs:  inside zone, tackle trap, and power GT.  We find when we pull the Tackle; we generally have a DE that wants to chase the play.  This is the reaction we desire in order to use the speed and quickness of our QB.  If the DE stays at home and plays the QB it allows us to run our base plays, with an extra blocker at the point of attack, but also sets up our R back counter when the DE works to contain the QB.  We think regardless of the aspect of the play that develops (option or base run) we will gain a man advantage with each aspect, if our QB makes the correct read.  Having coached spread option football for a number of years, I find this to be the simplest option read to teach and execute with a high percentage.

We ask the QB secure the snap and jump pivot to a 45 degree angle, facing the DE. We teach our QB to be very slow in this process.  We want him to sell R back run and allow the ILB’ers and FS to flow to the R back. This timing also allows our QB to ensure his read of the DE. We will read the outside shoulder of the DE.  If his shoulder turns to the inside and closes, it will be very tough for him to work back outside.  Our R back is responsible for the mesh of the hand off.  He knows if the ball stays in his pocket, it is his.  If the QB pulls the ball, the R back must run as if he still had the ball.  This must happen to keep the ILB’ers honest.  If the QB pulls, he must tightly replace the DE and run to score.  We don’t teach our QB to run and look to pitch.  We want to run to score and we will only pitch if we are forced to pitch. In the past, we have taught the pitch with a thumb under action and with a basketball type push pass.  Our current QB is more comfortable with the thumb under.  We attempt to use what works best for the players we have.  The one common denominator is that the pitch must come from a chest high level.  We can’t drop the ball down to make a pitch!  Keep in mind, in our offense, the QB is a running back that is very gifted at throwing the football (2430 yards passing, 62%, with 24 TD’s and 980 yards rushing in 2002 as a Soph).We like our chances when he has the ball in the open field.  We simply want to help him by creating a 2 on 1 situation against an OLB’er; Put speed in space. The QB and backside slot are the only 2 players that have to alter their responsibilities on these plays.
We ask our backside slot to drop step with his inside foot and gain depth (2-3 yards), waiting for the QB, in order to establish a good pitch relationship.  The slot is lined up off the ball at the snap so the footwork and gaining depth is not as difficult as one may think. We ask the slot to line up as far off the ball as possible with out giving away the play.  As the QB either pulls the ball or carries out a great fake, the slot will accelerate and push for width in order to establish a good pitch relationship.  The slot is responsible for establishing this relationship. We teach the slot to catch the pitch with his hands as a basket, not with his inside hand on top.  We find this has improved our ball security. It is very important to carry out the pitch relationship even though the QB may have handed the ball off. We coach the QB, even after he gives the ball, to sprint with some forward body lean and his hands in a chest high position to simulate carrying the ball.  This is all part of a good fake. We find that a good fake on this may keep the FS out of the base running play.
Some teams have their DE chase the play and have the FS or ILB’er try and play the action on the back side. If the player is aggressive to the back side, we will run our zone play and take the BS OT off his combo and work him up to the ILB’er or FS, which ever shows first. We should still have at least a one man advantage on our base run, which is a goal of the play!
We feel the threat of the option to either side of the field, out of a balanced formation, works to accomplish one of our main goals, which is to spread the defense horizontally and force them to defend 53 1/3 yards. You can add motion to the play in a number of ways. We have not done that as of yet but I can see some additional defensive problems motion can create. There are also a number of ways you can dress up or disguise the play. The concept has been a great addition to our offense and allows us to take advantage of what the defense is giving up while keeping the ball in the hands of our skill players.  We strive to put speed in space.
In no way do we claim to have all the answers to everything involved with this type of play. We are always looking to improve what we are doing and would love to hear from others that run something similar. I think all coaches that use this type offense will agree that it is a blast to coach and a lot of fun to watch! The kids love it, and that’s what it is all about: KIDS!
If you have any questions or I can help in any way, please feel free to contact me at
Mike Bramblett
Head Football Coach
Forsyth Country Day School
Winston Salem , NC